The closest thing to a truth I’ve found in writing, is that not everything you write belongs in the story. Writers are often told that they must kill, murder, or exterminate their darlings.
The attribution of the saying varies, but the concept behind it holds steady. While it’s true that friends, family and other loved ones can get in the way of writing, it’s the literary darlings we must take our knives to. I’ve seen others refer to a story as having a spine, and have used the same comparison myself; the spine representing the core of the story, the bits that must unequivocally remain the same to keep the tune of the story intact. In the same story, there may be other, possibly brilliant scenes. These scenes may not fit into the spine, and instead hang off it like an extra limb.
You’ll have to amputate.
It could even come back to a line of dialogue that you really love, but that doesn’t match the tone of the scene it’s in. We’re flirting with the editor’s bloodthirsty demeanour in this area, but even as you pen the scene, the writerly side knows it doesn’t quite belong. You become so desperate to use it, thinking that it can’t hurt the scene that much. Eventually, you decide to either remove it, or leave it in, hoping everyone’s so swept away with the cleverness of it, that nobody questions it.
You seriously ought to lose it.
Ah, but now is not the time for wakes and mourning. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I’ve written many things that didn’t belong. Not merely the stuff that came about through the normal process of writing, but bits and pieces that I wrote because I needed to excise an errant need from my mind. I don’t doubt that I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the instances was I wrote a flavour of a Happily Ever After (HEA) for two of my characters. It was set well after the events of the story, and even the sequel (quick explanation – the sequel was originally the first idea, and could work out when those characters died). The driving force was that I thought about everything my characters had gone through, and rationalised it as “well, it was worth it in the end”, except it wasn’t really. The scene I wrote wasn’t great, and would make any story it was included with worse – but at the same time, I wanted something nice for my characters.
The idea of scenes that don’t belong in the narrative has come up again for me. I have this current rewrite going on, but I also want to explore more of the world that’s been created. I can obviously accomplish this by writing more stories set in the world, but I’m also full-up on ideas for the setting at large. I see this extra idea as something that helps me get a better feel for the world. I started a short origin story for the setting, though felt that might actually work better as a full-blown story at some arbitrary point in the future (though of course, separate to the current stories). The possibility of additional stories is always there, no matter how brief they may be. A glance at the various fandoms around the internet show that there is certainly room for added stories, even if it’s an altercation between old foes in the racing blob corrals of Umgul.
It’s something that tends to fit a certain type of story better – those focused on strange new universes. If you’re writing something with an aspect of either science fiction or fantasy, are you tempted to write short stories exploring a setting? Do you want to explore the creation of your dystopia, or the fall of the utopia, or the apocalyptic event? Even if the setting only served as a backdrop for the story that birthed such a world? Is there another place to put the bits that don’t fit in your story, even if the only eyes that seem them are yours?